Set in the 1960’s, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll orbits around the life of the man who gave the punk musical world its actual charm. Directed by the award winning Mat Whitecross, the movie succeeds, if not comprehensively, in exhibiting the glories of a successfully professional and downsides of an emotionally injured life of Ian Robins Dury (12 May 1942 – 27 March 2000), a flamboyant character of the 1960’s, living his dream of becoming a showstopper in the music industry. With colourful sets, heart thumping musical backdrop and a storyline that’s equally well scripted, the movie, overall, does full justice to its title.
Inflicted with polio since childhood, Ian Dury, played by Andy Serkis, is shown going through the brunt and agonies of being crippled. His father, played by Ray Winstone, is shown in fleeting flashes as a person inspiring Dury to get to his feet on his own, until abandoning him at a disabled children’s home. The story revolves around Dury’s dilemmatic entanglement between his professional and personal life; the erratic and mercurial relationship with his wife Betty, played by Olivia Williams, and his girlfriend, played by Denise Naomie Harris; establishment of his band, The Blockheads, and their journey from being ordinary performers to stealing the top ranks of musical charts; and his relationship with his son Baxter, brilliantly performed by Ben Milner, which seems a vital factor providing an emotional feed to the storyline.
An excellent revival of Dury’s original performances has also been showcased in the movie, where Serkis, along with his band recreate the magic with Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Sweet Gene Vincent and What A Waste. The soundtrack of the movie displays purity in its ‘punk’ exuberance – a perfect blend of magnificently structured colourful background sets, interwoven with brilliantly composed tunes and whopping beats indigenous to 1960’s and 70’s, and lyrics that beautifully described the bitter torments of Dury’s life.
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, on a larger extent does manage to display Ian Dury’s life as a rockstar, one who, living through the turmoil of an emotionally discharged life, successfully makes his own space and clears the way of making The Blockheads rise to the top of the charts. Moreover, it outwardly tries to narrate his personal life with clear absoluteness – his failed marriage with Betty, his frightening and traumatizing days spent in a children’s home where he was looked down by the other inmates, and his influential relationship with his son, as depicted when he says, “Don’t be like me; be like you.”
Andy Serkis’s performance is an outstanding one, marking a clear paragon in the way he has impersonated the greatest punk stars of all times, and his expressiveness and articulation in bringing to life the wildness of Dury, all garnished with equal proportions of wittiness, dark humour, spontaneity and emotional charm. Serkis’s acting is magnetic, and doesn’t fail to deliver its viewers a charismatic scoop of 1970’s. Milner, who played Baxter, has also pulled off an exceptionally brilliant performance, playing along whilst Serkis’s highs and lows.
The movie, overall has given a promising outlay of what goes on inside the world of sex, drugs and rock and roll.